Chan urges producers to record audio descriptions of their films throughout the shooting process. That way, the soundtrack of the audio descriptions can be synchronised with the film and the audio descriptions can be available in cinemas when the film is released.
“Just like other countries such as the United States, Britain and Japan, the blind can wear headphones to listen to the audio descriptions without disturbing other people,” she says.
However, Chan adds that few cinemas in Hong Kong have the technical support for audio description. Agnès b. Cinema at the Hong Kong Arts Centre is an exception.
Sadly, says Chan, cinema for the blind is not a mainstream activity in Hong Kong and few people know about audio description. Compare this with Japan, where cinemas provide audio description and facilities and guide dogs accompany the blind to the cinema.
To achieve similar conditions in Hong Kong would require a concerted effort from the government, the film industry and society as a whole.
Wellington Fung Wing, the secretary-general of the Hong Kong Film Development Council (FDC) and assistant head of Create Hong Kong, supports audio description for films and is personally in favour of the production of DVDs with audio description.
However, he believes that if audio description service is conceived of as a welfare service supported by volunteers, it will not be sustainable. On the contrary, if the narrators and scriptwriters are paid, and the distributors can sell more copies due to the extra soundtrack, it could develop into a sustainable business model.
In fact, not much money or skills are needed to produce movie DVDs with audio description. Distributors admit they can cover the costs by selling just 1,000 copies. Yet inertia seems to have overtaken the idea of making more movies available with audio description.
Fung says there is a limit to what the FDC can do and it will not consider proposing any legislation to control or restrict the film industry. It is not compulsory for film producers to add audio description to their productions.
Fung says that what the council is doing is providing financial support to cultivate expertise and promoting the audio description service to DVD distributors.
While narration and sound can bring the visual medium of film alive for visually-impaired audiences, the deaf can also experience cinema just as fully without sound.
Last month saw the second Hong Kong International Deaf Film Festival (HKIDFF) organised by the Hong Kong Association of the Deaf and held at the Agnes b. Cinema in the Hong Kong Arts Centre.